The Power of the Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network

The following is a post from Mandy Gilbert that she originally shared in our Women Powering Business Network group on LinkedIn. At my request, she’s agreed to let me share it with the larger audience here.

***********************

Last year I had the opportunity to attend my second Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) conference, this one in Austin, TX. The trip, much like my first DWEN conference, would have a major impact on my life as an entrepreneur and individual.

Attendees of  Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) conference eating dinner in Austin, TX

I had been invited to a couple of DWEN events before I could actually attend one.  With so many conference invitations, as well as multiple offices to manage, I’m on the road a great deal.  Deciding which events are the best investment of my time and money is an ongoing challenge.

My first DWEN experience was in India three years ago. I was very excited, and at the time I committed to the event, every aspect of my life was in balance.  I had just been ranked one of Canada’s top female entrepreneurs, had expanded operations to four offices in three countries, my family was great, business was stable—in short, I felt like a million bucks. But then, shortly after making those arrangements, all aspects of my life started to fall apart. 

  • My new office in Europe was struggling and quickly depleted my initial, sizable investment. I had a very sluggish start with our U.S. operations which led to staff turnover. Then, the rock of the business, our Canadian operations, hit a wall and our business declined by 40 per cent overnight, representing a $200,000 loss over three months on top of losses at our other struggling offices.  This decline in revenue required staff changes, which meant letting go a friend of 10 years, who proceeded to sever our relationship on the spot.
  • Simultaneously my sister and best friend—also an employee—who had just celebrated her 40th birthday, was diagnosed with aggressive *** cancer.

With four offices in the red, my employees panicked and began questioning my decisions and actions. My sister began aggressive chemotherapy and I was trying to be there for her daughters and support her through the emotional rollercoaster of diagnosis, treatment and recovery. I was juggling travel with doctors’ appointments, committing time to reversing the company’s financial decline and workplace cultural malaise, not to mention trying to be around (never mind present or happy) for my two young sons and husband.

We had a long layover in New York City before heading to New Delhi and as we were about to board, I had my first interaction with Dell’s Entrepreneur In Residence (EIR). Her name was Ingrid, and she greeted me warmly before proceeding to introduce me to several Dell executives, all of whom were incredibly genuine and friendly.  That encounter left an amazing impression and even though I felt professionally paralyzed, broken and sad, they provided a sense of support.

 Two women in conversation at the Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network event in India

It didn’t stop there. DWEN surprised me at every turn – from the involvement of Dell’s global executives to the transparency and storytelling from presenters and fellow entrepreneurs. All of them reinforced DWEN’s purpose:  to help support and inspire women entrepreneurs around the globe. Not once did I feel that Dell was pushing itself on us or promoting its self-interest. That created an incredible sense of appreciation and loyalty. 

Through various sessions, conversations and interactions with inspiring people in an unforgettable country, I left comforted and reassured that I wasn’t alone in my struggles. That helped give me the strength to return to my life with my head held high. 

Two years later, I was back on a flight to the DWEN conference in Dell’s hometown of Austin.  I soon ran into Jen Evans, a fellow Canadian and past client who I had admired from afar for years. Only this time she was overcome by a profound sadness.  After talking to her I learned about her professional struggles. She was running four early-stage companies, one of which was failing. She was broke, had taken on too much and was living a high-stakes, high-stress existence—but without the quality of life that I’d since come to appreciate and value above all else. 

Because of the DWEN connections I made the year before, I was able to connect her to several key individuals immediately—specifically, VIPs who made time to review her challenges and share strategies on how she could turn it all around. Much like my experience the year before, that insight and intervention became a turning point in her life, allowing her the necessary perspective to make major personal and professional changes that have helped put her businesses on a new and more prosperous path, including a contract for one of her companies with Dell! 

I’m not sure how much revenue the DWEN initiative generates, but I can tell you that I’m involved with several global and local entrepreneurial events and conferences, and this is by far the most positive, meaningful and important network of which I’m a member.

Dell’s commitment to DWEN is incredibly forward-thinking, genuine and necessary to provide global entrepreneurs with the opportunity to share, learn and lead in an inspiring environment. This is the kind of supportive environment that so many of us need to help grow our businesses and continue contributing to our local economies and communities.

In short, DWEN empowers us to achieve great things.  For that, I offer my profound ‘thanks’ to Dell—and I’m already looking forward to the next conference in Berlin.

**********************

Profile photo of Mandy GilbertMandy Gilbert is Founder and CEO of Creative Niche, a Toronto-based executive search, recruitment and temporary staffing firm purely focused in the digital, marketing, mobile, public relations, social media, advertising, and design space throughout North America, Asia and Europe. Creative Niche works with marketing departments of multinational corporations, as well as major advertising, digital and public relations agencies. Their clients—ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500s—include Cohn & Wolfe, Draft FCB, Interbrand, Ogilvy, RBC, and SapientNitro. Creative Niche has offices in Toronto, Ottawa and Cincinnati.

Laura Pevehouse

About the Author: Laura Pevehouse

Laura Pevehouse was profiled as one of five “social media mavens” in the March 2009 issue of Austin Woman Magazine and named an AdWeek’s TweetFreak Five to Follow. She has been part of the Dell organization for more than 15 years in various corporate communications, employee communications, public relations, community affairs, marketing, branding, social media and online communication roles. From 2014-2018, Laura was Chief Blogger/Editor-in-Chief for Direct2DellEMC and Direct2Dell, Dell’s official corporate blog that she help launch in 2007. She is now a member of the Dell Technologies Chairman Communications team. Earlier in her Dell career she focused on Global Commercial Channels and US Small and Medium Business public relations as part of the Global Communications team. Prior to that, she was responsible for global strategy in social media and community management, as well as marcom landing pages, as a member of Dell’s Global SMB Marketing, Brand and Creative team. When she was part of Dell’s Global Online group, Laura provided internal consulting that integrated online and social media opportunities with a focus on Corporate Communications and Investor Relations. She managed the home page of Dell.com, one of the top 500 global web sites in Alexa traffic rank, and first brought web feeds and podcasts to the ecommerce site. In her spare time she led Dell into the metaverse with the creation of Dell Island in the virtual world Second Life. Laura has earned the designation of Accredited Business Communicator from the International Association of Business Communicators, and received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Louisiana State University. Before joining Dell Financial Services in 2000, she worked at the Texas Workforce Commission and PepsiCo Food Systems Worldwide.
Topics in this article